The Other Shoe: The Stress of Testing

Differing opinions on follow-up protocols can make it hard to advocate for oneself and to advise others.
PUBLISHED September 21, 2015
Jean Di Carlo-Wagner, M.A., E-RYT500, yoga therapist is a 12-year colorectal cancer survivor (2003). She used yoga to help herself regain a 'new normal' and then became a yoga teacher to help other survivors. Her work is free to cancer patients at YogaBeing.net. Jean attends cancer conferences and speaks on the benefits of yoga for cancer survivors. Survivor, advocate, activist, teacher and friend.
The other shoe hasn’t dropped, but it did a little tap dance on my head. I got the results of my recent colonoscopy: Benign but adenomotous changes noted. In other words, cancer may develop. The doctor’s recommendation was to scope again in a year.
 
Not really surprised, but a little bummed out. This area in my ascending colon had a sessile polyp about a year ago. The first follow-up was benign. This colonoscopy showed some changes in the lining of the colon. After reading up and consulting with a few other cancer advocates, I decided to write my doctor and ask that my CEA level be checked. It was always a good indicator for me about tumor growth during treatment in 2003 for stage 3C colorectal cancer.
 
I also asked that I be scoped in six months, because I actually do have some discomfort in the area around where the polyp was excised. I had spoken with a Lynch syndrome patient who had also requested earlier screening. Her stance probably saved her own life. Her cancer was growing outside the bowel wall and into a lymph node.
 
Differing opinions on follow-up protocols can make it hard to advocate for oneself and to advise others. I believe my request is reasonable and I trust that my doctor will help me make good choices. Being an active part of my own health care is somewhat uncomfortable, because I like my doctor and I don’t want it to seem like I'm second guessing him. At the same time, I have to live with the consequences of my action or inaction. It’s good to have the support of other survivors to bounce around these thoughts.
 
Going through tests can be stressful. I had trouble sleeping and decided to write to one of my students in a different time zone.  Here’s what I really felt about waiting for the results:

Good Morning,

It's the wee hours of the morning. I find it hard to sleep, my body has a visceral reaction to the prep. It reminds me of how chemotherapy effected me. I put poison in my body and felt ill. I wanted to throw up, but couldn't allow myself to let go. I fought with the feeling of nausea. Watching my face turn pale, I remembered the look of cancer. Greenish, puffy, disgusting distortions in my face. I remember being ill. Looking ill. Smelling ill. And the smell of hospitals, which still can make my stomach flip.
 
I have one area that had a precancerous sessile polyp. It is hard to reach by scope. I was very sore from the force it took the doctor to propel the instrument so far up and over. I pray me intestines don't puncture.
 
The cat is sleeping next to me. My little alive stuffed toy. Her weight keeps me grounded to the now. She also represents normal ... I fear losing normal again. In the darkness, I can tell secret fears.
 
Revisiting colonoscopy is also revisiting the oddity of cancer. Vulnerability. Loss of control. Not knowing my sick body. Fear of the future. Would my spirit rise again to challenge? 
 
It is difficult to retouch such uncertainty, yet I know this is a gift, as it is touching the mystery of life and that includes death. It isn't a separate fear. Living fully, am I? Am I awake? Do I realize I will die? Now or then. Here in the middle of my sentence? Touching awakened awareness
 
Thanks for listening. In the dark, it is easier to hear my thoughts.

Today’s Practice:  Take a moment to look at this picture and to hear what thoughts it evokes.
Take a moment to look at this picture and to hear what thoughts it evokes.

 

Did you hear the word “weed”?  Now continuing looking at the picture. This time, think about the perfection of all things. What if everything is perfect, just as it is? Close your eyes and think about everything being perfect. Now look another time at this picture. It looks different. That’s the power of our minds. Our thoughts can determine how we view our circumstances. Weeds? Determined plant? Your choice about what feels better.

Having a practice of meditation and yoga tools to help me manage stress is what I hope to convey in my writing. Those of us living with cancer or the higher possiblity of cancer returning are living with stress. Prolonged stress can cause it's own myriad of health issues, including inflammation. Inflammation is considered a key cause in cancer, heart disease, immune disorders and depression. Little moments of peace and serenity are ways in which we can bring the 'healing response' or relaxation response into our lives. Yoga is a mind-body-spirit method of living well. It is not a cure for cancer, but it can have powerful effects on cancer treatment side effects. I'll be writing about an Integration Medicine Symposium I attended this past weekend. Get ready for more hope and ideas!

Blessings,
Jean

 
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